echochrome ii Review
Game: echochrome ii
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3 only
So you’ve bought that shiny new PlayStation Move controller, you’ve got it home, connected it to your PlayStation 3 and sat down to play some games. The next thing you’ll notice is that the disc that comes with the starter pack is only a demo disc. You really wanted a full game to play from beginning to end with this brand new control method. I’ve got the solution to that, an inexpensive PlayStation Network game designed solely around the PlayStation Move. echochrome ii. A puzzle game from the minds of Sony’s Japan Studio (the guys that behind Ape Escape and LocoRoco) and revolving around the use of the Move Controller to cast shadows onto the walls of a box in order to lead your character to a predetermined exit. Many different obstacles will obscure the intended path, but that’s the main fun of the game. Not only do you have to attempt to figure out how to get to the exit, in most of the levels your first task will be to figure out exactly where the exit is!
Love puzzle games? Does echochrome ii sound just up your street? Read on and you’ll find out all you need to know.
STORY: As with most puzzle games there’s very little story in echochrome ii. The main point of the game is to get a small stick-like figure to an exit by creating shadows for him to walk on. If there was going to be any “story” associated with the game then that’s about as much as there is. This doesn’t take anything away from the game in this case, it’s a puzzle game by every definition of the word and the addition of a story, in any form, would probably just cloud that fact. There is the use of voice-over throughout the game, but this only serves as a voice for the tutorials at the start of the game and then a form of encouragement for the rest of the game. It’s is a nice little addition and makes it sound like a children’s TV show from the early 90’s. This has the added effect of making the game more accessible for a wider audience, which can only ever really been seen as a good thing.
GRAPHICS: Similarly to the story, the fact that echochrome ii is a puzzle game means that the development team haven’t lavished a huge amount of attention on the graphical side of things. That being said, for a puzzle game, echochrome ii is quite the looker. Taking into account what the folks at SCE Japan had to work with (blocks and spheres) they done a fantastic job with the graphics. The use of light and shadow is particularly impressive, a visual highlight even. As strange as it sounds, any other additions to graphical side of the game would have probably taken something away from the simplistic nature of the gameplay itself.
SOUND: The audio aspect of echochrome ii is actually quite impressive too. The music used in the game is a calming mix of classical piano and the theme of a children’s TV show. The voice over only further adds to the feeling that you’re taking part in a TV show of some kind. It’s extremely calming and not intrusive at all. It’s rare that the music and sound in a game creates a calming environment, but echochrome ii certainly does just that. The music, while being calming and relatively unobtrusive, never gets boring either. It’s the type of music that you don’t really notice while it’s playing, but as soon as someone mutes the TV or starts talking over it you’ll find yourself wishing you could hear the music just a little more.
GAMEPLAY: The main gameplay element of echochrome ii, as stated earlier, is to guide a small stick-like figure character to an exit. Fairly straight forward stuff, right? No. The problem with this is that it isn’t as easy as it looks on paper. To start off with, the character you guide is a shadow and, as such, can only walk along other shadows. This means that you, as the player, have to use the PlayStation Move controller as a makeshift torch and direct the imaginary beam of light at the blocks and other shapes on the screen to create a shadow that can be walked upon by the character. Starting to sound a little bit more complicated now isn’t it.
There are other elements dotted around within the gameplay too in order to keep it from getting boring at any point. There are things like spheres which, when placed halfway into the ground, act as bounce pads, launching the character into the air and onto any hard to reach ledges scattered around the level. There are portals, bounce pads, nifty ways to create exits out of a block or sphere, holes and a myriad of other things to make the walk to the exit point a little more hazardous and puzzling.
In a similar way to Sony’s popular LittleBigPlanet games, echochrome ii also includes a create mode enabling players to create their own block based puzzles, upload them and have them be a part of the echochrome community. Create levels can be played, rated, and loved for evermore (or at least until the servers go away). The create mode itself is fairly full featured, allowing the player to place blocks into the level, rotate them, colour them and then, of course, preview the finished level to see if anything needs a little tweak. After all, you could have created the best looking level in the world, but if people can’t actually make it to the end then it’s pretty useless really.
One of the most unique features about echochrome ii is the ability to upload replays to YouTube. While some games have already started to include social networking features such as this I’ve never actually used one of them. Having now used it I can see how it can add to the overall experience of a game. Players can use YouTube as a tool to brag about their scores with their friends, no matter how far away those friends happen to be. It’s one thing to say you finished a level in a specific time, it’s another thing altogether to provide them with a YouTube video as proof. Pretty cool, however, there is one pretty major negative about this feature. Unfortunately you can only record yourself whilst watching a replay of the level you have just completed. The feature would have been a whole lot better if the camera recorded you while you were actually completing the level. After all, anything worth watching would only happen in those moments when you finally complete a puzzle that’s been driving you crazy. It’s very rare that those same emotions would come across when merely watching the replay of that achievement, at that point the moment itself is lost.
LONGEVITY: Similarly to LittleBigPlanet (and it’s recent sequel) the longevity of echochrome ii is directly linked to your own personal enjoyment of it. The amount of user created content is, quite frankly, mind boggling and the fact that they’re so easy to create means that there will probably be a never ending stream of levels to play. In essence, if you love this game then there’s no reason you’ll ever need to stop playing. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like playing for long play sessions you can always put the game on for a level or two and be certain that there’ll always be at least a few new levels to play.
VERDICT: If you’ve already been out and bought the PlayStation Move then you’ll be a fool not to buy echochrome ii. Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s an enjoyable game with a near limitless amount of gameplay attached to it. There are few minor problems related to the control system, but at the end of the day they don’t put a dampener on what is a massively enjoyable puzzle game – one that shows off the potential of the PlayStation Move controller as an input device very well.